By Tiffany Vail
Associate Conference Minister for Communications
Leaders from the three southern New England Conferences met with a consultant last week who will help guide them in developing a proposal to form a new, single Conference.
The Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island conferences have engaged Jim Schnurbusch, of the St. Louis firm OrgStory, to help develop the plan. Annual Meeting voters in June overwhelmingly voted in support of pursuing a unified Conference.
Schnurbusch has worked with other settings of the denomination, including with the national setting of the UCC in developing its purpose, vision and mission statements. His firm works exclusively with nonprofit organizations.
"OrgStory is excited about the possibilities being imagined in the Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts Conferences," Schnurbusch said. "This work aligns well with our focus on helping nonprofits use story to shape strategy; to help organizations not simply describe what they've become but help them envision what they are becoming. The work of these three Conferences is important, and we're thrilled to be part of it."
Connecticut Conference Minister the Rev. Kent Siladi met Schnurbusch at an event at General Synod, at which point he learned about OrgStory and the firm’s work with the national setting.
“When I shared with Jim our efforts to form a new Conference, he was interested in helping us get the word out to local church members about the proposal,” Siladi said.
Siladi then set up an online conference call with Schnurbusch, Massachusetts Conference Minister and President the Rev. Dr. Jim Antal, and Interim Rhode Island Conference Minister the Rev. Barbara Libby. They were all impressed with his work with non-profits and background as a UCC member, and all three recommended to the Together, As One team that he be hired.
“Telling the story of why we are proposing a new Conference rooted in mission and ministry is the strength of OrgStory and we are pleased to have them assist us in our planning,” Siladi said.
In his initial meeting with the planning team, Schnurbusch invited the group to let go of the past to the greatest extent possible and to envision and imagine what a new Conference could do and be. First, he asked what this new Conference ideally will be in 2022. Responses included:
A Conference in which local congregations are engaged in bold public witness and are bettering the lives of those in their neighborhoods;
A Conference in which congregations are racially diverse and multi-generational;
An organization recognized for our values by those outside the church;
Schnurbusch then asked the group to write down the questions they feel need to be answered in the next few months to flesh out the vision of the new conference. Some of those questions that the group ranked most important were:
How will we connect with, or partner with, other organizations (religious or secular) to meet our vision?
How can we equip pastors and lay people for the radical adaptive, transformative change that is necessary?
How do we equip people to be disciples in the local church and in the world?
Also at last week’s meeting, held Aug. 30 in Woodstock, CT, the group heard back from the various subcommittees that have begun their work. Those subcommittees are: Vision-Mission-Purpose, Staffing, Governance and Finance.
The Vision-Mission-Purpose team, tasked with articulating the vision for the new Conference, presented a draft statement. After some more editing is done, that statement will be made public. At that point, this team will convert into a Communications & Outreach subcommittee. Schnurbusch will work with that subcommittee on a communication strategy, which is envisioned to include focus groups with local church clergy and lay members.